First COVID Related Remote Work ADA Discrimination Lawsuit Filed By EEOC
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, has filed a remote work ADA discrimination lawsuit in what has been called a first-of-its-kind case that could decide businesses’ obligation to allow employees to work from home as a disability accommodation.
ISS Facility Services, Inc., a Denmark-based workplace experience and facility management company with U.S. headquarters in San Antonio, unlawfully denied its employee’s reasonable request for an remote work ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – accommodation for her disability and then fired her for requesting it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it recently filed.
This case represents the first lawsuit the EEOC has filed about a request for an ADA accommodation related to COVID-19.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Ronisha Moncrief worked for ISS as a health and safety manager at ISS’s Takeda facility in Covington, Georgia. From March 2020 through June 2020, ISS required all of its employees to work remotely four days per week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June 2020, when the facility re-opened, Moncrief requested an accommodation to work remotely two days per week and take frequent breaks while working onsite due to her pulmonary condition that causes her to have difficulty breathing and placed her at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Although the company allowed other employees in Moncrief’s position to work from home, it denied Moncrief’s request and, shortly thereafter, fired her.
“The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities to ensure those with disabilities have an equal opportunity to work to their full ability,” said Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “Denying a reasonable accommodation and terminating an employee because of her disability clearly violates the ADA at any time. In light of the additional risks to health and safety created by COVID-19, it is particularly concerning that an employer would take this action several months into a global pandemic.”
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 1:21-CV-3708-SCJ-RDC) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement via its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.
Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office, said, “The EEOC is committed to enforcing the ADA to protect the rights of such aggrieved employees.”